Copyright 2014 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc
All Rights Reserved
Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
BOSTON - Weeks after coming under fire for scheduling high school championship games at the same time as the SAT test, the statewide organization in charge of scheduling has developed a compromise with lawmakers to avoid the problem in the future.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association was criticized last month when the organization refused to reschedule games between Chelmsford and Methuen high schools and Hopkins Academy in Hadley and Turners Falls. The sporting events were scheduled for the same time as the June SAT tests. Some student-athletes had to choose between taking the test or playing in their championship games.
The scheduling conflict sparked debate on talk radio and numerous stories in local sports pages. At the time, MIAA officials said scheduling conflicts have existed for years, without any complaints before.
Rep. John Scibak, a Democrat from South Hadley, filed legislation to prohibit the organization from scheduling games at the same time as the college entrance exam. Scibak and the MIAA hammered out a compromise last week to try to avoid future conflicts.
On Thursday, lawmakers on the Education Committee heard details of the compromise that has MIAA officials notifying principals when there is a Super Bowl football game and test-scheduling conflict within two weeks so the school can apply for an alternate test date for the student-athletes.
"We really try to put the best interests of the student-athletes across the state first and foremost in our minds," said Sherry Bryant, associate director of the MIAA.
Under the agreement, no spring tournament games will be scheduled prior to 2 p.m. on the June SAT test date, other than outdoor track and field, unless principals of the schools are advised in writing two weeks prior to the date so they can request an alternate test date. Track and field events take all day, and would be difficult to start after 2 p.m., MIAA officials told lawmakers.
The MIAA will also send an email to all principals and athletic directors at the beginning of the outdoor track and field season to plan accordingly to request alternate test dates for student-athletes to take the June SAT test.
Fourteen juniors from Chelmsford and Methuen were forced to choose between playing a semifinal baseball game or taking the SAT.
The game was originally scheduled for June 5 but rained out and was moved, which conflicted with the SAT. Coaches talked about forfeiting the game in unison, according to the Lowell Sun newspaper. The teams played, and some students skipped the test to play.
Players at Hopkins Academy and Turner Falls faced the same problem.
Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, testified during the hearing, saying she thinks the conflicts should be avoidable. "It is too daunting for a student to be placed in that position," O'Connor Ives said.
William Gaine Jr., executive director of the MIAA, said in a letter to the Education Committee this week that the organization was sensitive to students negatively affected this spring by the scheduling conflict, and pledged to do better.
"This discussion, without a doubt, has raised a level of our consciousness," Gaine wrote. The governing body of the MIAA "acknowledges a clear message that we can do better," he wrote.
The MIAA board approved the recommendations, according to those involved in the discussions.
Scibak said since he filed the legislation in response to the problems in Chelmsford and Hadley.
He asked lawmakers on the committee to send his bill to study - typically a legislative dead end - to give the compromise time to work.
"I think the important thing is no students in the future will face what students at Hopkins Academy did," he said.
The Education Committee is expected to vote on its recommendation for the bill during an executive session next Tuesday.